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The Woods at Night: Nocturnal Animals Caught on Our Wildlife Camera!

Updated: May 2

We’ve been using a wildlife camera to capture some of the creatures that live in the woodland and other countryside around Orton Academy. In this post, Dr. Orton introduces you to some of the nocturnal animals you might see in the woods at night…

I don’t think I could ever be afraid of the woods at night. At least, not in Britain’s woodlands, where we have no large predators that are a danger to humans. To me, the woods are an enchanted place, the inspiration for folklore, fairytales and magic. They are also home to some of my favourite animals.




Iconic, russet-furred and wily, the fox is my favourite animal. Not only is it the emblem animal of Leicestershire and its cricket and football teams, it was a huge part of my childhood.


I remember the enchantment of seeing foxes playing at the bottom of the field behind our bungalow on a summer evening when I was a child; equally magical was the time I saw two foxes on my way to the King Power stadium to celebrate with other foxes fans on the night Leicester City won the league in 2016.


Foxes are crepuscular, meaning that they are most active during twilight, but our cameras tend to capture them in the middle of the night. Often, they are just passing through, but they frequently stop to snaffle up worms, mark their territory, sniff the rabbit warren to check for lagomorph residents or even to have a good old scratch in front of the camera!




Elegant, secretive and solitary except for occasional family groups, muntjacs are widespread across England and parts of Wales.


You might also notice that they have ‘hunched’ appearance. This is because their rumps are higher than their shoulders. Bucks (males) have small antlers on top of long fur-covered base (these will shed in late spring and regrow by late autumn) and the face of the male is striped. Does (females) have no antlers and a diamond-shaped crown patch on their heads.

Muntjac are also known as ‘barking deer’ and various species of muntjac are spread across south and south-east Asia. Because they are non-native and the adults have no natural predators, there is a debate about their negative impact on native British wildlife, particularly if their activities prevent the regeneration of woodland. We’ve not noticed this kind of problem in our spinney.

Bucks defend their own territory against other males, but often does’ territory will overlap and we’ve captured both males and females on our wildlife cameras. They are often browsing for shrubs, trees, plants and fungi. We sometimes see them marking their territory with scent from special glands on their faces.




Britain’s top foraging expert, the badger is full of personality. They’re stocky, powerful, and have a lolloping gait that is charming to watch.

Badgers live in setts: complex networks of underground burrows and tunnels. They also have outlying setts for retreat when the badgers are out foraging. They are notoriously clean, and are known for carrying used bedding from their setts under their chins!


Badgers are known to be conservative. We’ve found that to be true on our cameras, with what appears to be the same badger following the same path night after night.


Adult badgers have no predators; they themselves are actually the biggest land predator in the UK. Their favourite food is earthworms, but they also eat fruit, slugs and invertebrates. They are also known for eating small mammals like voles, rabbits and hedgehogs.


Badgers live in social groups of around four to seven animals, but we’ve only seen individuals on our cameras. Badgers are strictly nocturnal so it has been exciting to see them regularly!


Of course, these are not the only animals we’ve noticed in the woods at night. We often hear tawny owls and see barn owls and bats at night. Not to mention plenty of bunnies, whose sleep patterns defy classification!


Find Out More


If you’re interested in conservation and wildlife, we have a Conservation blog series that looks at wildlife and human interaction all over the world, from the altitudes of the Himalayas to the dense mangrove forests of Bangladesh!


We also offer online private tuition in our course, Culture and Conservation, in which you can explore the links between our natural and cultural heritage and study wildlife and cultures from across the world! This is a template of a possible study route and can be combined, adapted, or designed from scratch to suit your interests and goals.


Dr. Orton will work with you to design a course of private tutorials tailored to your needs, ability and schedule. Click the link to find out what it’s like to work with her and contact us to find out more!


Do More


Even if you don’t have a big garden, there are plenty of things you can do to help biodiversity in your area. Why not put up a solitary bee nesting box or insect home, create a woodpile as a habitat for small creatures or leave small areas of your garden to go wild? If you have the room, a small garden pond can be excellent for biodiversity. 


Think about your own area and how you can protect vulnerable but important parts of your own environment. You might even want to start your own project investigating the cultural importance of wildlife in your area. Dr. Orton works with independent scholars undertaking their own research for an independent project, people writing a book or simply those who have a personal interest. Click the link to find out what it’s like to work with her and contact us to get started!


Reach Out


We’d love to see what you’re doing to help wildlife in your area. Follow the Conservation highlight reel on the Orton Academy Instagram to see what we’re getting up to and tag us in to any snaps you put up!

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